Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville is starting work on the second phase of the Southwood Mobile Home Park redevelopment project.
Habitat bought the property off Old Lynchburg Road near Fifth Street Extended in 2007, and it plans to redevelop the site into a 700- to 800-unit mixed-income, mixed-use development. Approximately 335 units are in the first phase, which received its rezoning approval in 2019.
Representatives for the project met with the Albemarle County Planning Commission this week to give an update on the first phase of the project and get feedback that will help form the development of the second phase.
“We are preparing our concept plan and new code of development and hope to submit that in the fall, so your questions and comments are particularly important to us now as we plan phase two,” said Lori Schweller, an attorney with Williams Mullen working with Habitat.
The first phase, which includes two resident-driven villages, has 207 affordable homes and apartments.
The first village has about 80 homes, and 49 of them will be deemed affordable. The area will have 23 market-rate, single-family detached homes, eight market-rate townhomes, 36 affordable condos, eight affordable single-family attached homes, two affordable townhomes and three affordable single-family detached homes.
The second village, which includes about 48 units, is still under review by county staff. At this point, the plan shows that 21 units will be affordable.
The first phase also has 121 affordable rental apartments, 70 market-rate townhouses and 16 affordable townhouses.
The Piedmont Housing Alliance recently had a successful Low Income Housing Tax Credit application for 70 of the affordable apartments.
In the initial phase, Habitat had hoped not to have to move any current Southwood residents, but Dan Rosensweig, local Habitat president and CEO, said they will have to move 25 families and their trailers, which Habitat will pay to move, or they will move into another restored trailer in the park.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we’re working with 25 families that are adjacent to the first construction zone that really were a little too close for comfort,” he said. “… All of those 25 families will be successfully and safely moved by September. Right now, 11 of the 25 have been moved.”
The first phase also includes trails and parks, including Five Pillars Park and Monacan Nation Park, which was discovered during a site walk with Monacan Chief Kenneth Branham and likely was a hunting ground.
There is also about 10,000 square feet on the first floor of one of the PHA buildings that can be converted to commercial space over time. Rosensweig said some of that space is reserved for a community room.
“What I was hoping to do, and what we work pretty hard to do, was to try to condominiumize a certain percentage of that commercial space so that it could be owned by a central entity whose sole purpose was to allow it to be affordable, rental commercial space for Southwood businesses,” he said. “That got a little bit waylaid by COVID. We had a number of opportunity zone investors who were interested in it, but that ultimately didn’t materialize.”
Andrew Vinisky, Habitat’s chief construction officer, said they anticipate the first five Habitat homes and the first four market-rate homes will be completed early next summer.
County Development Process Manager Megan Nedostup said a portion of the $3.2 million performance agreement for the redevelopment, which the Board of Supervisors approved in 2019, is completed, while other provisions are in progress.
So far, the county has given $100,000 to support Habitat’s planning work and applications.
Habitat will receive additional funds at certain milestones — when Low Income Housing Tax Credits are awarded for 80 or more rental units of affordable housing; when funding is secured for 75%, 85% and 95% of the 75 Habitat-built or Habitat-contracted affordable units; and when certain plans are approved and permit documents are submitted for the units.
The performance agreement also includes $1.4 million in real property taxes to be rebated to Habitat over 10 years.
Members of the Planning Commission had questions about specifics — the number of current Southwood families who will be living in the first phase, how current home-based businesses will be accommodated without additional costs, area median income percentages that the affordable housing would cover, among other questions.
Commissioner Tim Keller said that with 207 affordable units, it looked like there would be less affordable housing than there currently is at Southwood.
“I’m seeing us having a net loss [of] 700 people in terms of affordability, so that in all of our talk about increasing the numbers of affordable units in the county and in the region, I’m concerned, at least with what we’ve seen so far, that there could actually be a net loss,” he said.
Rosensweig said the first phase is 30 acres out of the entire 123 acres of the property, so there are 207 affordable homes on roughly a fifth of the site.
“There’s an area four to five times the size of what phase one is that will accommodate more affordable housing, and so when we come back for the second phase of rezoning, that’s where the additional density of affordable housing and market-rate housing will be,” he said.
“It seems like each time we have these discussions, we’re told that they’re going to be answers in the future, and I just can’t believe that you can be doing this without having those kinds of projections so that we could begin to say, ‘Wow, this is an amazing project, because we’re going to have 500 or 1,000 more people who have affordable homes than in 2007 with this parcel,’” Keller said.
When asked about area medium income breakdowns, Rosensweig said he could get it for the Southwood families who have applied for the program and send it to the commissioners later.
“How many [homes] are currently committed to existing residents? I’m trying to understand your success rate so far — your intention, and then how many you’ve been able to sign up?” asked Commissioner Karen Firehock.
Rosensweig said they’ve had numerous families who have been working toward this for a while, and Habitat had 25 families come forward in the spring.
“There’s 49 homes in the first village, but they’re not all going to get built next year. There’s about 20 to 25 that are going to get built every year, so that was about the right number of families that we needed to fill up the first buildings that we’re building,” he said.
Habitat is now working with the families who are interested in applying for the next round of applications in August and September to fill the rest of the first 49 units. Habitat presumes that of the 86 units in the first phase, all or almost all of them will be occupied by Southwood families, Rosensweig said.
“We’re anticipating pretty close to 100% of what we build will be for existing Southwood families,” he said. “We can’t force anybody to stay in the neighborhood and so there will be some families who leave, and we’re working one-on-one on a strategy with all of them.”
In terms of home-based businesses, the code of development allows a lot of flexibility, Rosensweig said, and most of them currently at Southwood are not particularly intensive.
“We have been talking to people for years and years and years and years about the need to get serious about a sustainable business and financial plan,” he said. “We have a full-time business incubator specialist on staff who works one-on-one with those folks. Some have made plans. For some, the plans work very well in the neighborhood. For some, we hope that they’ll be able to relocate or choose to relocate their businesses in the new downtown Southwood, but that’s still a bit of a work in progress.”
Schweller said Habitat plans to update the Board of Supervisors in September to get members’ feedback, and is preparing a concept plan and new code of development and hopes to submit those in the fall.